By Jon Swartz
Shares of Facebook soar 8%, while Google catapult 6%; Amazon rises 6%; Apple up 4%
Silicon Valley dodged a red flag Tuesday night because there was no blue wave -- and Big Tech is benefiting big on the market.
With national election results strongly suggesting a split government, fears of a Democratic-led antitrust outlook were allayed, sending Big Tech shares up sharply in trading Wednesday. Shares of Facebook Inc. soared 8%, while Alphabet Inc.'s Google catapulted 6%. Amazon.com Inc. was up 6%, and Apple Inc. jumped 4%.
Google stock hovered near an all-time high, and was on pace for its largest percent increase since April 29, when it rose 8.89%, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index was up nearly 4%.
"We now see a material reduction in the possibility of a meaningful overhaul to existing antitrust law, which, in our view, was the primary risk vector to big tech in a blue wave," Evercore ISI analyst Benjamin Black said in a note Wednesday. "[Facebook] and [Google] are major winners on this front, followed by [Amazon]."
Legal experts anticipated Democratic control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives would have accelerated antitrust investigations already under way against Google -- sued last month by the Justice Department over its search-engine business -- as well as Amazon, and Apple. The Federal Trade Commission is expected to take action against Facebook as soon as this year.
Anthony Sabino, a law professor at St. John's University, predicted a "plethora of Senate investigations, with parallel proceedings in the House, and a call for stronger antitrust laws -- some so oppressive they might even hamstring the tech sector."
An aggressive push would have likely come in the Senate, but the odds of that scenario appear to be thinning with Republicans maintaining a slim lead.
"We likely do not see Congress agreeing on legislation unless both houses of Congress and the presidency are controlled by the same party, as the parties have had difficulty reaching consensus on more pressing issues," Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said in a note Monday.
Who will lead the Democrats are a former presidential candidate who has called for the breakup of Facebook and Google, a bulldog member of the House who led antitrust hearings on tech the past year, and an East Coast Senator who routinely confronted tech CEOs on Capitol Hill.
A handful of key influencers under a Democratic-led Congress had emerged in recent months, based on their bruising statements and questions directed at tech CEOs the past year. Four senators -- Edward Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Mark Warner (Va.) -- and at least two House members, Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), and David Cicilline (R.I.), have made it clear they intend to act legislatively.
"To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons," Cicilline said in early October, after a House subcommittee issued a scathing 449-page report that recommends breaking up the most prominent U.S. tech companies and limiting their acquisitions.
Read more: Congress should consider breaking up Big Tech and limiting acquisitions, House report says ()
Still, the prospect of deepening antitrust investigations and calls for legislation endures, given bipartisan support of reining in Big Tech and immense influence on the economy, culture, and all aspects of Americans' lives, say tech experts.
"Facebook created a critical infrastructure company that needs to work with the government," Kiersten Todt, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, told MarketWatch. "There needs to be a re-examination of Facebook, Twitter, Google."
Indeed, antitrust increasingly has become a recurring theme in the risk factor sections of tech companies' regulatory filings.
After more than a year of ignoring the topic or diminishing its impact, Apple highlighted concerns around its App Store and search revenues from Google. Apple specifically mentioned court-based risks from injunctions that "could require the Company to change its business practices or limit the Company's ability to offer certain productsand services," Apple said in a 10-K filing.
The urgency with which tech companies approached the 2020 elections was reflected in their spending on politic ads. Facebook and Google spent more than $1.4 billion, or about 20% of the approximately $7.7 billion spent overall, according to Advertising Analytics.
-Jon Swartz; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 04, 2020 16:16 ET (21:16 GMT)
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